Fenced-out at Dorchester on Thames

The village leaflet for the historic Dorchester on Thames in Oxfordshire describes three short walks. Two of them go south from the village to the River Thames, one via the River Thame and the other direct to Day’s Lock on the Thames Path National Trail.

dorchester-leaflet

 

 

days-lock

The weir at Day’s Lock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But those walks, in the shadow of Wittenham Clumps on the far side of the river, are no longer across an open, untrammelled  landscape. Thanks to the activities of the new owner of Bishop’s Court Farm, former UKIP treasurer Andrew Reid, walkers are fenced in and constrained.

fenced-in-path

New fencing alongside public footpath leading to the confluence of the Rivers Thame and Thames

He is clearly aware that his actions are unpopular; this notice has gone up in the last month.

new-sign

On Tuesday evening (10 January), on behalf of the Open Spaces Society, I shall help to launch a campaign in Dorchester to restore people’s rights to the paths and spaces south of the village.

Mr Reid has put up barbed-wire fencing across paths which people have used for decades, he has filched the width of some of the existing recorded routes, and has restricted access to popular open spaces including the magnificent Dyke Hills, a significant iron-age earthwork and scheduled ancient monument.

dyke-hills

Dyke Hills, where people have long roamed free

On 1 November Oxfordshire County Council received notices from Mr Reid declaring that he accepted no routes on his land as public highways other than those on the definitive map (section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980), and that he was bringing to an end any period during which the public might have enjoyed informal recreation on any part of his land (section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006).  These declarations constitute a challenge to people’s use of any routes as of right, and to any land as a village green (land on which local people have enjoyed informal recreation for 20 years without being stopped or asking permission).

Ticking clock
The declarations set the clock ticking in the case of land which might be eligible for registration as a village green: local people have until 31 October 2017 to gather evidence and put in an application to Oxfordshire County Council for greens on Mr Reid’s land. They intend to apply to register as greens land at the eastern end of the Dyke Hills, and the meadow close to Day’s Lock, which have been fenced off. They have evidence of use of both areas for the past 20 years.

As for the paths, they aim to apply to record the full width of the paths which are already shown on the definitive map, with the aim of getting the fencing moved off the public highway, and they want to claim other, unrecorded routes which have been obstructed by fencing.

reduced-width

The fencing has reduced the width of the footpath

non-definitive-route

Unrecorded path across field has been obstructed

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the public meeting on Tuesday evening people will come with memories of their enjoyment of the land and use of the paths.  With the local activists, I shall lend a hand to those wishing to complete evidence forms and will help to give the campaign a good start.

sign-on-road

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, green spaces, National trail, Obstructed path, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, town and village greens, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Fenced-out at Dorchester on Thames

  1. Oliver Nowell says:

    Hi,

    Could you advise the location of the 10-1-17 meeting, and what time it commences please. I assume with an interest in getting the barbed wire reduced/ removed are welcome ?

    Kind regards,

    Oliver

  2. Hugh says:

    That seems to be a lot of new fencing. Does it exceed the land restructuring threshold for EIA screening by any chance?

  3. If any part of the works are within a scheduled ancient monument, then it’s 2km.

  4. Rob Stewart says:

    Hello Kate,

    I was the applicant for the Humpty Hill Town Green in Faringdon, Oxfordshire Whic was unheld at the High Court in Autumn 2016. Our case involve footpaths both recorded as Highway and not. Perhaps I could help with this?

  5. I take walkers around this area and do navigation training. The latter is now impossible and the former is becoming dangerous, through barbed wire and the wear on the tracks. Also the closeness the group have to walk to the River Thames. Contact me if you need any sort of statement.

  6. A Smith says:

    Hi there. If you go to http://www.pictureoxon.com and search for POX0453331 this will bring up an aerial photo of the area from 1981 (which I hope isn’t too early for you). You can click zoom for more detail. I hope this helps as, though a little blurry, it shows Dyke Hills and the meadow were unfenced. Good luck.

  7. Hélène Montefiore says:

    Hello Kate, has a campaign been set up after the public meeting in January. I am keen to participate. Thanks, Hélène

    • Dear Hélène, thank you for getting in touch. Yes the local people have put in their applications for village greens and are gathering the evidence for rights of way. I’ll ask them to contact you. Best wishes
      Kate

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